Reviews, Vol I, Issue IV
The novel effectively deconstructs the trendy cosmopolitan perception about love marriages being an egalitarian relationship between men and women. It is generally acceptable by a section of the so called educated and financially well-off people in our contemporary times that love marriages are a symbol of being progressive and modern. On the contrary love as an emotion is equally guided by the repressive and gender insensitive nature of our society. Though, it is equally significant to define that a love relationship is the first democratic step by a person in our society when it transgresses the boundaries of caste, class, religion, heteronormativity and ethnicity in our society.
The protagonist in the novel gets struck by this revelation that even though she had asserted her right to choose a partner, but she has fallen back into another institution of oppression by consummating her love bond into the Hindu marriage fold. The codes and norms she is obliged to follow are not just repressive, but are ways to discipline her back into a symbol of a "good woman". It is not just the female protagonist who is the victim in the novel, but the worst of all are the other women characters who being forged and moulded into the roles of the godmother, the mother-in-law, maid servant, and women in the neighbourhoods who instead of understanding, and at least showing solidarity with each other are constantly trying to monitor each other, constantly reminding each other to follow the herd. Thus, the Hindu patriarchal structure is getting more consolidated when the women themselves are unable to forge unity to break it. The institution of marriage is not just preserved through traditions, but it perpetuates itself through the oppressed and thus reproduces the conditions of its own existence. The author wonderfully captures this decapitating dilemma of the protagonist who seeks to move out from the domestic prison and pursue her desires to become financially independent rather than depending on the mercy of her husband. He on the other hand has brought her as a trophy to his home winning her love, and is proudly committing infidelity blaming his wife for not entertaining him after marriage. He just sees her as an object to give him pleasure and entertain him all his life.
Also, when she finds another male companionship in her life she is faced with the same conflict of culminating her companionship into another marriage, and thus falling into the same structure of existence. Diana has thus offered a way to her protagonist to denounce the structure itself and asserted through her protagonist that love does not necessarily require a tag of being a wife of someone in conventional sense; rather it requires a constant struggle to build an egalitarian companionship between the lovers. It is not just the fight of one individual woman in the novel, but rather the struggle of "half the sky" to democratise the society. The novel through its conclusion subtly suggests that the only way towards a free dawn is to demolish the structure rather than reforming it which has been the problem of the mainstream feminist struggle in India which has set the limits of dissent and is regulated by the overarching political and economic structure of the country.
Reviewed by Sourabh Kumar
Assistant Professor, Department of English, Ram Lal Anand College, University of Delhi